Guide To Court-Ordered Addiction Treatment

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Drug and alcohol abuse often leads to difficulties at home, work, school, or within the legal system. Getting charged with a drug-related crime can alter the course of a person’s life, but courts can also use it as an access point to addiction treatment.

Guide To Court-Ordered Addiction Treatment

More than half of Americans have tried illicit drugs at least once, and millions of citizens meet the criteria for having a substance use disorder (SUD).

Substance abuse is also a pervasive problem for people within the criminal legal system. Around 85% of those currently incarcerated have experienced drug or alcohol addiction.

Although drug-related arrests are fairly common, some people facing charges are given the chance to go to a drug rehab program instead of receiving punishment such as jail time. This is known as court-ordered addiction treatment.

What Is Court-Ordered Drug Treatment?

Substance abuse was once seen as a personal failure, but as education around addiction grows, there is now a better understanding that it is a disease requiring medical treatment.

With this growth of knowledge has come a push for rehabilitation instead of punishment after someone is charged with a drug-related crime. This has led to a rise in court-ordered rehab programs.

Instead of going to jail, or as a condition of release, parole, or probation, the person may have the opportunity to complete court-ordered addiction treatment.

Court-ordered rehab programs are one form of alternative sentencing. Other well-known forms include probation, community service, or paying fines and restitution.

Goals Of Court-Ordered Rehab Programs

Over recent decades, prison facilities have been found to do very little in terms of rehabilitating inmates with SUDs.

Access to smuggled drugs and alcohol inside prisons may even worsen substance abuse issues for some people, while others are very likely to relapse soon after release without help.

One study found that 20% of prisoners committed their crimes to get money for drugs, so breaking the cycle of addiction has a direct impact on reducing crime.

Court-ordered services aim to help people overcome substance abuse and, in turn, help reduce related criminal behavior.

Research shows that court-ordered treatment programs are equally as effective as traditional rehab centers.

Court-Mandated Addiction Treatment Options

There is no single type of court-ordered addiction treatment, and programs vary widely nationwide. There are currently more than 4,000 drug courts in the United States.

Court-related drug services may include:

  • accelerated pretrial programs
  • juvenile justice drug programs
  • DUI/DWI classes
  • mental health programs

Offering evidence-based services that directly benefit each person is the best way to ensure that people are successful in recovery.

Pretrial Rehab Programs

Accelerated pretrial rehab programs are designed to give first-time offenders a chance to complete addiction treatment before obtaining a criminal record and being sentenced.

These services are common after someone receives a DUI/DWI or commits another drug-related, nonviolent crime. Defendants can attend pretrial programs instead of standard criminal case proceedings.

The exact programs and treatment services required by the court can vary widely. People may receive pretrial treatment for anywhere from one day to two years.

Upon successful completion of the program, many defendants have all of their charges dismissed.

Educational Programs

People facing drug-related misdemeanors may be eligible for educational programs, the most popular type of court-ordered addiction treatment.

For example, first-time DUI/DWI offenders may be offered this alternative, with classes lasting anywhere from 10 to 15 weeks.

Attending classes at a treatment facility, passing tests, and presenting the certificate of completion to the court are necessary to have relevant charges dropped.

Detoxification And Inpatient Rehab Services

Medically monitored detox and inpatient treatment programs are the most intensive levels of care a person can receive.

Courts may mandate these services for people who have committed drug-related felonies or more serious crimes. They are also appropriate for people with severe symptoms of addiction.

Additionally, people with co-occurring mental health disorders, such as addiction and depression, can benefit from the 24/7 services that healthcare providers at these facilities offer.

A sober living environment can also help people focus on recovery, without common distractions or triggers available.

Outpatient Rehab Programs

Outpatient treatment services, including group counseling, are the second most common type of court-ordered addiction treatment.

Counseling, 12-step meetings, relapse prevention, medication management, and other recovery options can be applied to the different treatment plans for each person.

Since outpatient services don’t require clients to live onsite, such as inpatient programs do, people can continue working or going to school while receiving treatment.

Criteria For Attending Court-Ordered Treatment

The eligibility requirements for attending court-mandated drug treatment vary by county and state, but a judge’s approval is required.

Typically, people charged with a nonviolent drug-related crime, and who haven’t previously attended a drug court program, are eligible.

The judge will look at factors like:

  • the type and severity of the crime
  • any prior criminal convictions
  • probation qualifications
  • the defendant’s history of substance abuse
  • whether or not the defendant is a juvenile or a parent
  • if the person has a willingness to change and seek recovery

Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide if a person would benefit from a court-ordered drug rehab program, but family members and lawyers can help make a case for alternative sentencing.

Can I Be Involuntarily Sent To Court-Ordered Treatment?

Courts can mandate that someone be sent to addiction treatment, but this is often a last resort. The person entering treatment must meet certain qualifications first.

Additionally, a person may be placed in a 72-hour psychiatric hold if it is believed that they are a danger to themselves or others due to mental health or addiction issues.

Involuntary commitment laws vary by state, but it has been found that involuntary treatment has the same level of efficacy as attending a drug or alcohol rehab facility voluntarily.

Paying For Court-Ordered Substance Abuse Treatment

The person receiving sentencing has to pay for drug or alcohol abuse treatment services, but they usually get to decide where to go for care.

Private health insurance and Medicaid will both cover some or all of the costs associated with addiction treatment. Case managers may also help people access low-cost or free recovery services.

What Happens If I Don’t Complete A Court-Ordered Treatment Program?

There are serious consequences for failing to complete a court-mandated rehab program. These include hefty fines, jail time, and other punishment for breaking the law.

People can also be penalized for failing drug tests, missing appointments, not complying with treatment, or otherwise neglecting recovery.

If a criminal offender does not complete court-ordered substance abuse treatment, they may not be given another opportunity to use it to avoid conviction.

Does Going To A Rehab Center Help With Court Cases?

There are many factors that influence how the court system views an offender’s case, but completing court-mandated treatment often results in a much lower risk for legal punishment.

In many cases, such as with nonviolent misdemeanors or DUIs, the charges may be dropped entirely. The charges may also be removed from the person’s criminal record.

Having a long-term treatment plan for aftercare in place once the court-mandated rehab program ends shows dedication to maintaining sobriety.

Benefits Of Court-Ordered Rehab Centers

Court-ordered addiction treatment centers give first-time offenders a chance to right their wrongs and recover from substance abuse.

The criminal legal system has gained a better understanding of the disease of addiction, and incarceration without treatment only leads to more crime and drug abuse.

Court-mandated treatment can help people access the roots of their addiction to break the cycle completely, helping them rebuild their lives and better contribute to a healthy society.

Finding Help For A Substance Use Disorder

If you or a loved one is experiencing drug addiction or dependency, you are not alone. To learn more about the resources that can help, contact us today.


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